Producing SuccessThe Culture of Personal Advancement in an American High School

Producing SuccessThe Culture of Personal Advancement in an American High School

Peter Demerath

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226142395

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Middle- and upper-middle-class students continue to outpace those from less privileged backgrounds. Most attempts to redress this inequality focus on the issue of access to financial resources, but as this book makes clear, the problem goes beyond mere economics. The book examines a typical suburban American high school to explain how some students get ahead. The book's author undertook four years of research at a Midwestern high school to examine the mercilessly competitive culture that drives students to advance. The book reveals the many ways the community's ideology of achievement plays out: students hone their work ethics and employ various strategies to succeed, from negotiating with teachers to cheating; parents relentlessly push their children while manipulating school policies to help them get ahead; and administrators aid high performers in myriad ways, even naming over forty students “valedictorians.” Yet, as the book shows, this unswerving commitment to individual advancement takes its toll, leading to student stress and fatigue, incivility and vandalism, and the alienation of the less successful.